The Tale of Two Cities

Faith In Action: A Study of James  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  34:56
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Two different choices are before us in everyday living. We can fall into the worldly method of dealing with things, or we can fall into the heavenly way of doing things.
This does not mean we become so pious we avoid dealing with the world. It does not mean we remove ourselves from the world. It means we speak and act in a manner that is pleasing to God. We are living in a time not so unlike that of what Charles Dickens wrote of many years ago.
In his work “A Tale of Two Cities” he starts the book with this:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way (A Tale of Two Cities (p. 9). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.)
This striking sentence describes what is before us today. We all stand in a time where the world is going insane and we need to behave in a certain way. James is writing in this section of the wisdom's we have to choose from and how we demonstrate proper wisdom.
There are so many things that the world pushes as wise that is nothing short of demonic and vile. Which is why we all need to decide which way we will be in our lives. We all need to realize that the world says one thing to us as wisdom, but God says another. We can decide which way to be and we can realize that the world is totally opposite from the Lord. We can because James explains it in a clear and applicable manner in the text under study today, James 3:13-18 we read,
James 3:13–18 ESV
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
We see here in this section that James is still saying that we need to be slow to speak because in speaking too much we will reveal that we are lacking wisdom. Speaking too much and not allowing actions to speak will demonstrate what wisdom we have chosen and how little we have.
He then tells us that worldly wisdom is unspiritual and demonic which leads to chaos and vile practices.
Then he sums up that Godly wisdom is peaceable and teachable and will produce righteousness.
James begins with his usual questioning method asking who is wise and that they should be...

Showing Not Saying Wisdom (13-14)

He begins with this great question. It is basically a trap because the second someone answers “I am” they will be scolded for being boastful. Much like Drax the Destroyer in Marvels Guardians of the Galaxy.
They were with this man who was a god of some sort who had built his own planet and they were in awe of this but he says that it is no bigger than the earth’s moon. Drax then says, “Humility, I like it, I too am incredibly humble.”
Well, that is like saying that you wrote a book on the ten steps to humility and how you made it in seven.
Everyone sees through the false humility and sees that it is boasting and bragging you are doing.
We can also do this in reverse. We can act like we are not any good at something just for attention. We will use this false humility in a way that downplays what we can do rather than just doing it.
This is what James is getting at. He is saying that when we are wise and understanding, our actions will demonstrate our wisdom.
This word meekness means–“the quality of not being overly impressed by a sense of one’s self-importance,” with other words like gentleness, humility, courtesy, considerateness, meekness” able to be interchanged. (BDAG, πραυτης, 861).
So, James is saying that we are to serve and do, be doers of the word, without thinking too highly of ourselves.
He further says that we are to do this without boasting. That if we have bitter–resentment, jealousy–envious, selfishness in our hearts because of something another has or something they have done, we are to keep quiet because we will lie to make ourselves look better. We will be against the truth.
This means we can cover up our sins of bitter jealousy and selfish ambition through hypocrisy which is lying against the truth.
This is much like the Pharisee and the Tax collector from Luke 18:9-14. We see this “religious” man bragging and boasting like, “I thank you God that I AM not like these other dirty, unjustified, wicked, evil, vile, worthless, sinners like this tax collector here. No I DO all these things for you and show you how good I am How righteous I AM. But these other people are evil and vile unlike me who is extremely humble and worthy of you.”
But the tax collector who would not even look up but kept his head down beating his chest asking “LORD be merciful to me a SINNER.” He was justified and wise because he knew who he was and what he was. That is what James is saying.
We can be this way when we have our knowledge of self found through Jesus. When our identity is in Jesus, we can be humble and serve with diligence. We can show good works through our conduct with the correct knowledge of our self-worth. Not too high and not too low but just right because we have sought this from the Lord and not ourselves or others.
James tells us this is how we are to be because this wisdom that is boasting and lying is not from above but from unspiritual demonic influence. And this...

Disorderly Demonic Wisdom (15-16)

James walks us through five characteristics of the wisdom that is from below is.
These are Boasting: arrogance and selfishness where wicked people proudly justify their own sinful actions.
Lying against the truth: when we boast we are lying against the truth and therefore seeking to change the truth to what we want truth to be. We reject God’s standard of truth for what we want our beliefs and standards to be. We see this today with all the embarrassingly, extraordinary, over sexualized perversion of sexuality going around in the world. Those who stand with these perversions of sexuality do so only because they have rejected the truth and accepted the false, earthly, demonic wisdom of the world and made their own truth.
Earthly is the next characteristic: this is having only a pure horizontal perspective. Only seeing what the world says and offers. This is only the worldly measure of truth, worldly standard of success, seeking materials, and priorities that are only for the here and now. Like get as much as you can, you can have this wealth, you are finally something because you got that car, that house, that horse, that job, that man or woman, or “all of these kingdoms of the world will be yours if you will but fall down and worship me now” (Matt. 4:8-9). Earthly is only about this place now and nothing more.
Unspiritual: This one could also be called “natural” because this is pertaining to our own inner thoughts and desires. What compels us to the pursuits we desire. It is our inner human motives and nothing more. Like the most horrendous words ever to utter to someone, follow your heart, believe in yourself. These words may seem good but they are setting one up for failure. The Bible says the one who believes in himself is a fool (Prov. 28:26; 14:16). This is pride and self-confidence not trusting in the Lord. Scripture tells us to trust in the Lord and not ourselves (Prov. 3:5-6) the one who trusts in the Lord will be blessed and have strength (Jer. 17:7-8). So, following the natural part of us is not wise but worldly and against God.
The final Characteristic is demonic: This is following twisted truths that could be sponsored by the devil. It is a way of thinking that is contrary to God and a lie. We all know that satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). This type of wisdom will lead to nothing but confusion, disorder, and complete chaos.
Just look at the world around us, it is filled with chaos and disorder because demonic wisdom is disorderly and chaotic. It is meant to destroy and defeat, not help or strengthen.
There is this story of two men who lived in the same city. One of them was envious and greedy for self gain. The ruler of the city sent to both of them telling them he wanted to grant them one wish each. He had a provision in this though, the one who chose first would get exactly what he asked for, while the other would get a double dose of what the other asked for. The greedy envious man was ordered to choose first. This placed him in quite the quandary. He wanted to get something grand and excellent, but realized the other man would get double what he asked. He thought and thought on this and finally asked that one of his eyes be put out.
Worldly wisdom says to get what you want because you are worth it and deserve it. It tells us to do this at the expense of others.
The world will tell us to do what we feel is right because that is what is right. They reject truth for their own truth. They will reject anything that is against what they believe is right, and then that is the wisdom they place to us. That wisdom brings only disorder and destruction, not godliness. It leads to the wisdom of the greedy man from the proverb. In the end we suffer because we choose poorly and end up in disorder.
We can avoid this by seeking God and His wisdom above all others. Seek Him and you will have strength to get through. Seek him and you will know what to do. Seek Him because he is pure and right.
When we do we will also see...

The Orderliness of Godly Wisdom (17-18)

God’s wisdom has eight points in it.
Pure: this leads to purity of internal motives that leads to external actions.
Peaceable: Our natural desire is to be argumentative and combative, but God gives us the ability to not alienate people but be at peace with them.
Gentle: This is us surrendering our rights for a higher ordeal. We do not respond in kind to people when they do something to us. We respond with a gentle answer and actions.
Reasonable (open to reason): This is like meekness. We are not so hung up on ourselves that we are not open to examination and discussion. We may change our minds through discussion rather than build a wall.
Like Abraham Lincoln did one time. He sent an order and his Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, refused to carry it out saying the President was a fool. Lincoln received this message and said, “If Stanton says I am a fool, I must be, he is almost always right. I will go see for myself.” They met and talked and Lincoln soon realized his decision was a severe mistake and he withdrew it. This is open to reason.
Merciful: We look on others with compassion when they deserve punishment. We extend kindness to those who are not deserving because we have had kindness extended to us who are not deserving.
Bountiful: We abundantly bless others by service, money, aid, love, and meeting their needs. We are not stingy and greedy but willing to help always.
Unwavering (impartial): We do not change at the whim of the world and let the winds of the world blow us around. We stand firm on the truth of God’s word but we are not judgmental either. We stand firm for truth and holiness, but we are caring to others who are not there because they need the love of Christ too.
Sincere: We are not hypocritical. We do not act like a Christian on Sunday and then the world the rest of the week. People see this and they know that is bad. It runs them away because we act like heathens during the week over Christ. So, we are to be genuine without pretense–false display of emotions and feelings or a false motive. We are not shifty, flaky, unstable, or unpredictable. We are faithful and maybe even boring to the world but trustworthy and of sound character.
God’s wisdom is orderly and focused.
We can follow this path with His power working in and through us.
We can and should because when we do, we will sow an abundant harvest of righteousness.
Basically, if we desire righteousness from others, we sow the seed in the proper conditions, i.e., peace because anger cannot grow righteousness, but it sure can cause unrighteousness.
Like this other story from Abraham Lincoln, “Abraham Lincoln's secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, was angered by an army officer who accused him of favoritism. Stanton complained to Lincoln, who suggested that Stanton write the officer a sharp letter. Stanton did, and showed the strongly worded missive to the president. "What are you going to do with it?" Lincoln inquired. Surprised, Stanton replied, "Send it." Lincoln shook his head. "You don't want to send that letter," he said. "Put it in the stove. That's what I do when I have written a letter while I am angry. It's a good letter and you had a good time writing it and feel better. Now burn it, and write another." (Today in the Word, February, 1991, p. 9.)
That is how we produce righteousness in this wicked world. It is not through anger and hate, but taking strong action against a wrong but with calm, and godly words. We can do this because God has given us His Spirit and with him, we can speak and act in a righteous manner because God offers His wisdom freely to all who ask for it.
We just need to remember, Maturity manifests itself in humility, gentleness, and peace in interpersonal relationships. If humility, gentleness, and peace are not present, it is because a person is being influenced by an earthly, unspiritual, and demonic worldview. Where the world’s thinking about money, popularity, beauty, and leadership dominates, the result will be conflict. Where God’s values of submission, mercy, and unselfishness are present, the result will be peace. (Samra, Jim. James, p. 48. Kindle Edition.)


Whenever we come up against a situation that is difficult, we can either take a shortcut or do the right thing. For example, someone cuts us off in traffic. We can take the shortcut, throw a fit, or we can take a deep breath and pray for them.
Someone asks for our help one too many times. We can take the shortcut, and snap at them, or we can ask for the kind of divine love that bears all things.
Someone steps on our toes at work, completely disrespecting us. We can take the shortcut, giving them a piece of our mind and responding in kind. Or we can pause, take a moment to pray, and then engage in an honest conversation aimed at reconciliation.
Our spouse complains that we are not doing a good enough job of loving them; we can either take the easy way out and ignore what they are saying or try to disprove their claim, or we can honestly evaluate how we may be falling short of true sacrificial love.
What kind of legacy are you going to leave? Will you be someone whose life was filled with the me-first chaos of always taking the shortcut? Or will you be someone whose godly response to challenging circumstances consistently, peacefully pointed people to the source of your inner peace? (Samra, Jim. James, 1 & 2 Peter, and Jude (Teach the Text Commentary Series) (p. 49). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)
These things can be accomplished through the Lord. When we seek His wisdom over this earthly demonic wisdom, we can be patient, peaceable, pure, gentle, reasonable, merciful, impartial, and sincere. We can love others as ourselves through the power of Jesus Christ in us and working through us.
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